Chinese prosecutors get new powers to protect marine environment

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Chinese prosecutors have been given the authority to file public interest lawsuits against those who have damaged marine ecology, marine aquatic resources and marine protected areas, according to new regulations.

The “Regulations on Several Issues Concerning the Handling of Marine Natural Resources and Ecological Environment Public Interest Litigation Cases”, were jointly issued by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorates on May 11.

According to the new rules, if the department exercising the power to supervise and manage the marine environment has not separately brought a suit for compensation, the public prosecutor (known as a people’s procuratorate in China) may bring an incidental civil public interest lawsuit together with the criminal prosecution — or may file a civil public interest lawsuit separately.

The regulations are applicable to civil public interest litigation, criminal incidental civil public interest litigation and administrative public interest litigation for damage to marine ecology, marine aquatic resources, and marine protected areas within the sea area specified in Paragraph 1 of Article 2 of the Marine Environmental Protection Law at the place where the damage occurs, the place where the damage results, or the place where preventive measures are taken.

The people’s procuratorate shall give suggestions to the relevant departments and urge them to perform their duties in accordance with the law if the departments responsible for supervision and management of acts that damage marine ecology, marine aquatic resources, or marine protected areas have illegally exercised their functions and powers or failed to act, resulting in damage to the national or public interests.

If the relevant departments fail to perform their duties according to law, the people’s procuratorate shall file an administrative public interest lawsuit with the maritime court in the place where the administrative organ being sued is located.